Show your heart some love this Valentine’s season and all year! If you do, you will give it a gift that it will give back to you in a long and healthy life.
The heart is a vital organ. Not news to you, I’m sure, but let’s dig a bit deeper. We often take our health and our brain for granted. After all, we can’t see either of them; we just know they are there. Our focus is likely on the more visual parts of our body. I can’t imagine living without my arms, my legs, or losing my eyesight, but I could live without them. I would have limitations, but I would be alive.
When I had breast cancer, and they told me I would need a mastectomy to remove the cancerous breast, I wasn’t thrilled about it, but I knew I could live without a breast. My father-in-law lost his eye and lived successfully without it. My husband is losing his hearing (either that, or he just isn’t listening to me), but he can live without it (evidently). The word vital means that the organ is absolutely necessary; it is essential to life.
Your heart works hard for you day in and day out to keep you alive. It is absolutely necessary if you are going to continue to live to do all of the amazing things you do, like work, eat, create, shop, travel, and be with your loved ones. All of the things that make life worth living is what your heart is working hard to keep you doing! So, how do you say thank you? How are you taking care of this absolutely necessary, essential, vital organ? How hard are you working to take care of the heart that is taking care of you?
- Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. as 1 in 4 deaths are related to it.
- Stroke is the 5th leading cause of death in the U.S. with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking as the major risk factors.
- Diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in the U.S. as 100 million people in the U.S. have diabetes (to give you some perspective, in 2015 it was 30 million).
- Obesity rates are soaring and almost every health-related disease is linked to it. It is said that obesity kills more people than car crashes, terror attacks, and Alzheimer’s combined.
- 70% of all Americans are taking at least one prescription drug for a medical condition.
- 75-80% of these diseases are PREVENTABLE. This means that 75-80% of us could make the necessary lifestyle changes.
If you are reading this, you are likely one who wants to show your heart some love! Let’s start today by understanding our heart (it is the first step in any lasting love relationship).
- Your heart is near the middle of your chest, slightly to the left.
- The normal human heart is a strong, muscular pump, a little larger than your fist.
- This tough muscle weighs about 1 pound.
- The average human heart beats 72 bpm.
- Each day an average heart beats (expands and contracts) 100,000 times.
- The heart pumps about 2,000 gallons of blood a day.
- In a 70-year lifetime, an average human heart beats more than 2.5 billion times.
Lay your right forearm on your desktop with your palm facing up. Set a timer for one minute. Make a fist, then release the fist fully and rhythmically as many times as you can for one minute. When the heart is filling with blood, it’s like the hand when it’s open and when the heart is pumping blood to the rest of the body, it is like the hand squeezing into the fist. You may get tired even before just one minute of opening and closing your fist, but your heart needs to pump all day long, every day without taking a single break!
This is why it’s important for us to get exercise because it strengthens muscles in our body, including the heart muscle. The stronger the heart, the easier the pumping, the cleaner the blood flow, and the more oxygen in the bloodstream.
Your heart pumps oxygen-rich blood to your body and brings oxygen-poor blood back to your heart and lungs. Your blood travels through several miles of blood vessels. The cells in your body need oxygen to survive, and red blood cells carry that oxygen. The more oxygen your body gets, the more energy you will have. The higher a person’s heart rate, the greater the demand for oxygen. In other words, as your heart rate goes up, so does the need for more oxygen. We then breathe harder, pulling more air into our system which eventually goes into our bloodstream. So, exercise your heart if you want to keep it strong, healthy, and happy!
To love your heart and keep it healthy, happy, and working long and strong:
Get enough exercise. This means at least 30 minutes of exercise almost every day of the week. I recommend five days a week for a total of 150 minutes of loving your heart! Your heart LOVES exercise, even if you don’t!
Eat a heart healthy diet. Load up on fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts, and healthy wild caught salmon. Limit sugar, saturated fats, salt, and fatty meats.
Watch your numbers. Get regular check-ups to monitor health conditions that affect the heart, including blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes. Make sure these numbers are in the healthy range, or are at least under control, and by control, I don’t mean relying solely on medications, or you may be forced to rely solely on medications. Do your part to make the appropriate lifestyle changes to bring the numbers down.
Watch your weight. You may hate the scale, but it is an important risk indicator, so do not ignore it. Too many pounds can increase heart disease risk, so maintain a healthy body weight for your size.
Watch your waist. Women’s measurements should be less than 35 inches at the waist which is 1” above your belly button, and men should be less than 40 inches at the waist. Your Hip is about 7” below that – the thickest part of your behind. Your hip to waist ratio should be less than 0.95 for men and 0.80 for women, which is calculated by dividing your waist measurement by your hip measurement.
Reduce your alcohol intake. Too much alcohol consumption can worsen health conditions that contribute to heart disease.
Minimize stress. I know, easier said than done right? But stress can compound heart disease risks, so talk to your Health Advisor for effective ways to lower stress and therefore lower your risk of heart disease, and other stress-related maladies.
Try this now: Take 3 slow deep breaths to help your body build up a supply of oxygen. When stressed, try the “4-7-8 method.” Inhale for the count of 4, hold for the count of 7 and exhale for the count of 8 (expelling air completely – even beyond what you took in). There, don’t you feel better already?
Are you falling in love ... with your heart, yet? Don’t let the love between you and your heart be one-sided! Don’t let your heart love you more than you love your heart! Show your heart some love - every single day - and it will love you well for many years!
Happy Heart Day!
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– STEPHANIE WOLFE, NBC-HWC